Influential Books

I’m posting a list of books that have influenced me as a writer. I hope you enjoy this list, and that they inspire you as well.

10. Death in Venice by Thomas Mann

A bit of an odd choice to start this list off, but as a philosopher and a writer, this sticks with me. Mann is able to intertwine philosophy and literature into one coherent entity. The story is about a prolific author, Ausenbach, who goes on a vacation to Venice. While there he spies a beautiful Polish boy and ends up falling in love, or more appropriately, lust with him. His obsession with the boy addles his mind and reason so much that he ignores the warnings of a plague in Venice and eventually dies in his beach chair, the last image he sees being the boy wading in the ocean. Mann studied philosophy extensively, and in Venice, there’s a sequence where Ausenbach deliriously imagines himself and the boy as Socrates and Phaedrus his student.

9. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

I love this series. This was one of the earliest book series I ever remember reading as a child. An important birthday gift was one of my own copies of all seven novels. They are still in my possession and are well-thumbed. I suppose one of the reasons these books have stuck with me is that Lewis’s prose has a way of transporting you away, just like the wardrobe or Uncle Andrew’s rings, into another world. And when I got older, I saw the symbolism in the books and that merely made me enjoy them more.

8. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll

What can I really say about these books except that they are amazing?

7. The BFG by Roald Dahl

Roald Dahl has been a part of my childhood literary experience. I’ve read all of his books, but this one sticks in my mind. I credit this book for helping me write the dialogue between my characters because Dahl has such cracking dialogue between Sophie and the BFG. You almost feel like you’re actually sitting there watching them talk to each other.

6. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

For me, and I feel a lot of people would agree, this is where my interest in writing fantasy really started to take root. One could say Meg is the precursor to Katniss and Triss and many other heroines.

5. The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle

The first connection I had with this story was not with the book but with the animated film. We almost wore out the tape of it from watching it so much. I got a copy of the book in middle school…and I loved it.When I write prose, I try to write it not in his style, but I try to think “Hmm how would Beagle write this?” One day I would love to meet Mr. Beagle and tell him what a great influence he is to me.

4. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

I’m going to flat out and say that this was what made me want to write mystery stories. I have a feeling that they won’t be as great as these stories, but you never know.

3. The Happy Prince and Other Tales & A House Full of Pomegranates by Oscar Wilde

I think most people don’t know that Wilde wrote fairy tales, but he did. I had a volume of the first collection, and I found that they were much different than any other stories I had read. The story that stuck out to me was The Nightingale and the Rose. The sacrifice of true love, only to have it  taken for granted is bittersweet; sometimes I still get teary-eyed at the sacrifice and death of the Nightingale. And then the second collection, I read in high school. The Infanta is very similar to Nightingale with the theme of love and the one person who suffers from the pain dies. When I plan out scenes of unrequited love, I think of these two stories.

2. Anything by Neil Gaiman  

Honestly, anything that this man writes is beautiful.  He is what most writers aspire to, and he uses such lyrical prose. I dare you not to find a bad book of his.

And finally…

1. The complete works of J.R.R Tolkien. 
The Simarillion. The Hobbit. The Lord of the Rings. The Book of Lost Tales. My God, this man has written part of my life. The way he writes–yeah, it can get wordy, but it’s gloriously wordy. And he built up this world all of his life. I mean, I hope I can attempt to do what he did, but I will always bow down to Professor Tolkien–one of the greatest fantasy writers.

There you have it. Are there any I missed? Let me know in the comments below!

And now back to watching The Hobbit Extended Edition.